It pains me to say that Demi Lovato’s new album is a disappointment. It starts very well indeed with the two singles, “Confident” and “Cool for the Summer,” which are both fantastic, especially “Cool for the Summer,” which I initially thought was merely very good, but has entirely won me over with its bombastic drama. After that, though, the album’s insistence on being uplifting largely gets in the way of it being any good. “For You” at least fully commits with a windswept monumentality that reminds me of some of The Saturdays better moments. Most of the rest of the album is very X Factor, by which I mean its larded with generic signifiers of “uplifting”. This, ironically, shows a lack of confidence in Lovato’s abilities. She’s a great singer, not just in a stagey X Factor way, but in her ability to convey a wide range of emotions. You get very little of that on this album, because her performance is mostly hidden under musical elements that repeatedly tell us how emotional we’re supposed to be about it. We get a reminder of what we’re missing in the closing seconds of “Yes,” when the Gospel choirs shut up and the track quietens down to end with a performance that’s reminiscent of one of her most affecting songs, “Catch Me.”
Speaking of things that are bad, Popjustice announced the nominations for their Twenty Quid Music Prize, and it’s a depressingly mediocre selection. The only actually good track on the list is “Black Magic.” “King” is OK I guess, and “Turn the Music Louder” sounds a bit like Mac Dre’s “Feeling Myself,” which is something. But the rest of the list is at best incredibly generic, a narrow range from house-ish to dubstep-ish; not to mention “Uptown Funk,” probably the worst hit record of the past twelve months.
Not bad at all is Little Mix’s new single, “Love me like You.” It came out a few weeks ago, but it’s been growing on me ever since. I like how it inherits a whole tradition of modifications of the 60s girl group sound for modern production techniques. I’m particularly enjoying the use of bass as a rhythmic element to add an extra punch to the Be-my-Baby-style drums. Also not bad is the new Justin Bieber song, “Sorry,” although it’s very much along the same lines as “What do you Mean” while not quite as good.